02/27/2002 1:00AM

Southwest is drawing a crowd

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Trainer Larry Robideaux has won the Southwest twice, with Mystery Storm (1995) and Foxtrail (1993). On Saturday he hopes to add to that total with Paloma Parilla, a six-length allowance winner here in his most recent start. But first Paloma Parilla must get into the race.

As of Wednesday, 14 horses were considered probable starters for the Southwest by the Oaklawn racing office. If the race draws 17 or 18 entries, it will be split and run in divisions, according to racing secretary Pat Pope. If not, the field will be limited to 12 starters, with preference given to highest earners in non-restricted races.

Paloma Parilla, who is lightly raced with earnings of $27,600, worked five furlongs in a strong 1:02 in his final prep for the Southwest last Sunday.

"Most of my works, with a horse such as him, are controlled works," said Robideaux. "I feel as though he could have gone faster, but the work was by design. His first quarter of a mile was slow. His last three-eighths was in 36 [seconds], his last quarter was in 23.80. That's what I wanted."

If the Southwest is not split and entrants are excluded, there is also a 1 1/16-mile conditioned allowance for 3-year-olds scheduled for the undercard Saturday.

Freezing temperatures caused the cancellation of training Wednesday morning, but the cold did not stop Southwest probable King Zonic from getting his exercise. The colt galloped before the races started at 1 p.m. Central.

Candid Glen to Explosive Bid

Candid Glen, who won his second consecutive Connally Breeders' Cup Turf last Saturday night at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston, will make his next start at Fair Grounds in the Grade 2, $700,000 Explosive Bid Handicap on March 24.

Candid Glen closed with a dramatic rush to win the Connally by a nose at 10-1, just like he did in 2001.

"I tell you, he put on a real exhibition," said Andrew Leggio, who trains Candid Glen for Dr. Glen Warren. "I didn't think he won it, just like last year, and he prevailed again."

Leggio said the long-term plan for Candid Glen is to run the horse through several of the same stakes he was in last year, among them the $250,000 Dallas Turf Cup at Lone Star Park near Dallas on June 15.

Longshot to Lone Star?

Pleasant State, who paid $90.60 when she won the $50,000 Jersey Lilly for fillies and mares by 2 1/2 lengths on the Connally undercard, could make her next start in the $75,000 Irving Distaff at Lone Star Park on April 13.

The Jersey Lilly was the first career stakes win for Pleasant State. "We claimed her for $10,000 a few years ago, and she has done nothing but make money," said Ramon Flores, who trains the consistent Pleasant State for R S S I Racing.

Because of her consistency, Flores was a little surprised Pleasant State was dismissed at 40-1. "There were tough horses in the race, but she's always real competitive, always right there, and I had confidence going into the race. I though she could be in the top 4."

Sam Houston handled $2,891,276 on its 10-race Connally card, down from last year's total of $3,276,053. Handle on the Connally itself, however, was up more than $6,000 over last year to $466,885.

Prepping for Oaklawn BC

Starlight Gazer, a stakes winner of $321,502 who has not raced since finishing third as the favorite in a high-priced claimer at Turfway Park in December, makes her local bow Friday in the first race, a one-mile allowance for fillies and mares that could produce starters for the $200,000 Oaklawn Breeders' Cup on March 16.

At least that's the goal for Starlight Gazer, who shipped to Hot Springs two weeks ago for owner Ro Parra and trainer Barry Germany. "I love the way she goes," said Germany.

* Sam Houston leading rider Glen Murphy has missed three days of racing with a cracked rib but is scheduled to return to the saddle Saturday night.

* Larry Melancon, seventh in the jockey standings at Sam Houston, is out for the rest of the season with a fractured collarbone sustained loading into the starting gate last Friday.

* Douglas Ross, an owner for 40 years who has most recently been racing at Sam Houston, died last Sunday.